IS THAT A FISH IN YOUR EAR?

TRANSLATION AND THE MEANING OF EVERYTHING

An award-winning translator describes and defends his profession.

Bellos (French and Comparative Literature/Princeton Univ.; Romain Gary: A Tall Story, 2010, etc.) has a broad definition of translation: in general, the ability of the human mind to convert stimuli into meaning. He begins by imagining a world without translation—recognizing the unpleasant possibility of such a situation—and then identifies and analyzes key issues of his discipline. He dispenses with some common misconceptions about translation (“Translations are substitutes for original texts. You use them in the place of a work written in a language you cannot read with ease”) and examines some of the difficulties and oddities of the enterprise. For example, how to translate into French those portions of War and Peace that are already in French? Bellos also discusses dictionaries (observing that, in one sense, a language becomes a language when it has a dictionary) and dismisses what he calls the myth of literal translation (word-for-word substitution). He reminds us of the canard about Eskimos having scores of words for “snow” and deals with issues like the translation of sacred texts, the difficulty of simultaneous oral translation and translation problems in the fields of law and journalism. There are some stunning moments along the way, as when he offers a dozen variations of a translation of a Chinese shunkouliu (“oral grapevines”). There are moments of humor, too (oh, the problems translating naughty jokes!). Bellos realizes that in literary translation, the only way to experience the author’s original effect is to read the text in the original language. His passion sometimes propels him into hyperbole, but never for long. Erudite and occasionally dense, but ultimately illuminating, even transformative.

 

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-86547-857-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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